Six Strategies to Stretch the Summer STRATEGY 5: CONSTRUCT Some Patience!

Six Strategies to Stretch the Summer  STRATEGY 5: CONSTRUCT Some Patience!

Strategy 5 is all about slowing down over the summer for one big reason—because we have no other choice! Even my posts about summer strategies have slowed down because I’ve been at a national sporting competition with my family. For those of you with kids who compete, you surely know that competitions of any sort can try a parent-spectator’s patience. There’s a whole lot of waiting, events run behind schedule, and 2:00 quickly morphs into 4:30, tangling up dinner reservations for 25 and other large-group travel logistics. As seasoned veterans of such events, like seasoned teachers, we’ve seen all this before and have crafted many strategies we deploy to cope and regroup with ease. No one’s surprised by these delays—there’s always a Plan B. In fact, we can run through an entire alphabet of plans.

 

Choose Times Wisely

To be adept and feel even modestly productive at such out-of-our-control events, I’ve learned to be prepared for just about anything. I also don’t treat all hours equally; my expectations of the clock, my family, my work, and myself ebb and flow. I’d never consider trying to work in between events. I tend to work before and after events, allowing myself to wait it out without work pressures during the events themselves. I’ve taken a page or two from the teachers I work to support; I look for optimal times to be productive, capture ideas, and spark learning. Because I know these delays are coming, they do not derail me.

 

What We Crave About Summer

This sporting event typically marks the speedy descent of summer for our family; once this event is over, we take a short break and then begin to prepare for back-to-school. As I waited between events, I did a lot of thinking about what it is so many of us seem crave about summer, why we wait for it so eagerly, so deftly brace ourselves for it’s rapid evaporation, and then so wistfully long for it to quickly return next year. Based on the teachers with whom I’ve spoken, it seems we crave summer’s freedom, a rare lack of constraint, the ability to slow down and relax—the ability to choose.

 

That’s a key: slowing down by choice to relax. Regardless of geographic region, and Teacher Peach teachers do hail from many different climates, summertime is associated with warm, beautiful even if hot weather. Summer seems to be universally about having less structured time during which we may choose to do more of what we wish. It’s a time to savor a second cup of morning coffee on the porch, take the dog for a longer run, or decide on impulse that dinner can be a last-minute picnic in front of the television. Regardless of specifics, in the summer, it seems there are fewer obstacles in our way.

 

Fair Weather Frustrations

As we plotted our driving trip to get to the event, we even added an extra hour for delays leaving the city, an extra snack stop along the way, and so forth. We even prepared for construction. Or so we thought. Because summer’s weather is so much better for so many of us when compared to cold, blustery winters, it is during the summer that we must battle one big summertime nemesis: construction. The old joke about having two seasons, wintertime and construction time, has rarely felt truer. It feels like EVERYWHERE I go this summer, I seem to encounter construction. From main interstates to the back road near the train station in our little town, construction is taking advantage of the summer season.

 

I thought about this while completely stopped on the interstate, traveling only 23 miles in 148 minutes, an average of less than 10 miles per hour instead of the 70 miles per hour we were anticipating. As we sat there, stranded, I decided this was another form of a summer slow-down. The difference between this slow down and the ones I want during the summer has everything to do with the fact that we did not choose this slow down. I could literally count the orange cones in front of me because we had to move so slowly forward. We did not have any options; we could not turn back or get ahead; we were trapped for two hours.

 

Savor What You Can

As the minutes ticked on and we realized this was not going to be a short construction delay, we began to compare this to other travel calamities that would have been worse. “We could have been flying there and our flight could have been cancelled; this way, we can just drive longer tonight and still get there before it starts.” “At least we have everything we need here with us. Even string cheese and water, but don’t drink too much of it!” And my favorite, “What if we lived right here and needed to do this every day to get to our jobs or something?”

 

As we helped one another to just give in to this out-of-control summer surprise, I realized how much we had to be grateful for. After all, we were in an air-conditioned car with a full tank of gas—and we were together. With all of us trying to make the best of it, this delay became a sort of summer adventure. While the kids texted this news to their friends, I decided to be grateful we were safe and simply waiting for progress. I decided to be grateful that these people working had jobs, that it was not too hot outside for them, and that it wasn’t raining.

 

More Plans from A to Z

As we continued to recalibrate both our expectations and timelines, I realized we were just falling into the habit of regrouping, something we all need, all the time, even during the summer. By the time I realized Plan B had long ago bitten the dust, we were on about Plan G of our strategies. I was comforted knowing we still had 19 more of 26 letters to go. It reminded me of the alphabet cards we recently released. Never did I seem to need these 26 letter options more. Check these A-to-Z Sentiments Greeting Cards and Stickers Kit should you ever find yourself needing some go-to cards for 26 of your students, friends, peers, and more.

 

 

On The Road Again

As we worked to make up time, of course, it did begin to pour—torrentially, slowing us down once again. The day after we returned home, we were rushing to an appointment that was not at all convenient and for which we were running late. We jumped in the car and took the back road, hoping to miss the many traffic lights on the main road, only to find ourselves behind a gentleman who was clearly not in any hurry and must have been savoring a lazy summer drive down a winding road. Of course, we were in a no-passing zone. But, this time we did have an option, to turn at the next corner and make our way back to the main road—and we did. Hitting every red light, of course, we eventually made it to the corner where we were to turn left. Can you possibly guess what was sitting in front of us in that turn lane? Yes. This construction vehicle! It seems it was parked; we missed three light as as we sat there with a clear view of the driver who was cleaning his sunglasses. This time, we only laughed. “We better enjoy this part of summer. We can’t seem to avoid it!”

 

Enjoy Your Summertime Treats

We so hope you are enjoying your summer, treating yourself to a few summer delights, and savoring all you can while rolling with the parts you cannot change, like how slowly traffic moves or how quickly time seems to fly. If you’re taking your dog for that longer summer run, check out The Real Teacher’s Pet™ gear, with everything from bandanas, water and travel bowls, collars, and a leash. If you’re savoring that second cup of coffee on the porch, why not treat yourself to a Teachers Totally Rock coffee mug? Whatever your summer choices may be, we hope you’ll post a comment below to let us know how you are stretching your summer. Stay tuned for the last of the six strategies to stretch the summer, coming as soon as summertime permits.

Six Strategies to Stretch the Summer STRATEGY 4: Zoom in and Capture the Details

Six Strategies to Stretch the Summer  STRATEGY 4: Zoom in and Capture the Details

Strategy 4 to help teachers savor the summer is all about zooming in for a close-up. I’ve been walking much more in recent weeks and since I’m clearly getting my steps in, I’ve decided it is now OK to slow down a bit and even stop occasionally to “snap” the roses. With my ear buds tightly in place, I truly can Tune IT Out, as my colorful ear buds below do attest. Lately, though, while I’ve been listening to music and audiobooks that appeal, as promised, I’ve not wanted to tune anything out about my summer walks.

The routes I take are very familiar to me—many just like the path above. I may walk the same path many times in a week—yet with my own zoom-eye viewfinder in focus, I’m discovering many new images along the way. I keep up my walking pace while slowing down to take in the visual discoveries that are such a rich part of my surroundings. I’ve really opened my eyes as I’ve walked lately. I’ve looked, really looked, at the bursts of color on a path, taking in the minute details of everything from leaf patterns to fresh produce at the local farmer’s market. This slowing down to look has helped me articulate and apply this fourth strategy to savor the summer.

Every Teacher’s Macro to Micro Toolkit

Teachers use macro to micro strategies regularly and in many different ways—from describing something as major as the Civil War to teaching writing and comprehension skills. It is important to go from the macro—the right big ideas—down to micro, the crunchy and exacting details that support those big booming ideas. When one is working to savor the summer, these tools can serve us well. Educators don’t turn off key skill sets—ever. Educators find new ways to apply them to whatever appropriate opportunities are at hand.

The idea of slowing down the summer to savor it well is definitely a big idea. This savoring strategy is all about slowing down summer’s speed in a different way—an i-stop instead of the classic photography f-stop. I do stop—often—and I like what I see. The very opposite of not looking far into the future which was the first strategy, this fourth strategy is all about looking closely at all that’s part of the present.

I’ve incorporated this detail view into recent walks. By zooming in for detailed close-ups at the micro level, my walks have become full of rich, new discoveries—a delight for a graphic designer like me. I no longer reach for my phone to check my steps; instead, I reach for it to capture imagery, stunning compositions that my mind’s eye seems to spot at every turn and with each step I take.

Capture Now to Savor Later, Too

Several years ago, I was on a family vacation I desperately did not want to see come to its end. I took my long “last-day-here” walk, past all of the wonderful landmarks I’d walked past in almost an absent-minded manner just days earlier. On my last walk on the last day, the popcorn store sign, the walking trail post, and even the rock wall on a nearby house suddenly became important enough to capture—in detail. I used my phone to take photos all along the way. At the time, I thought I might use these images as a winter boost to remind myself summer would return again—eventually. With renewed purpose, I took many different images on that walk that day.

Of course, I never did use those images in the frozen throes of that winter. Instead, I forgot all about them and only rediscovered them recently while hunting for something else in my photo library. Even now, these images take me right back to that vacation. They’re serving another a purpose I never intended—that of sparking me now to slow down and zoom in for these same kinds of detailed close-up reminders. When I catch myself lamenting that this summer is flying past too rapidly, perhaps a quiet review of these detailed, micro images will refresh my memory of all I’m doing and experiencing.

I hope the following mixed collection of images from both that vacation and most recent summer walks inspires you to begin your own image collection. If you do, I hope you’ll share a few of your images below.

Not a Zoomer? Zone Out Instead

If zooming in for image close-ups on long walks just isn’t your thing, then definitely do visit teacherpeach.com for a colorful pair of Tune IT Out Ear Buds to tune out distractions. You might also opt to indulge in a lazy spa day at home, perhaps lounging on the porch or under a tree. Check out Once Upon a Box for HOME that’s brimming with lots of relaxing spa-style treats designed with teachers in mind. With this unique gift box, there’s even a different way to stop and smell the roses—with fragrant bath soap made of individual and colorful rose petals. With all that’s in this HOME box, you’ll find plenty of choices to relax and savor summer.

Jot down a quick comment below to let other teachers know your strategies to stretch and savor the summer. As for me? I’ll be walking, listening, and zooming in to collect even more close-up image reminders. Who knows? One day some of these image close-ups could even become a set of greeting cards for teachers just like our newest release. Take a look at dramatic new set of elegant B&W Greeting Cards and Postcards, six different designs, each bearing a positive and inspiring message for students—ideal for every time of the year.

Stay tuned for Strategy 5 next week and savor this upcoming summer weekend.

Six Strategies to Stretch the Summer STRATEGY 3: Teacher Wisdom—Stretch Summer with Traditions

Six Strategies to Stretch the Summer  STRATEGY 3: Teacher Wisdom—Stretch Summer with Traditions

As this long Fourth of July weekend seemed to zoom past, I noticed how many activities we pressed into these scant few days and evenings. I felt like our weekend actions were very much like the prongs on Lady Liberty’s crown, shooting out in many different directions at once. I did stick to my plan of not scheduling past this weekend. This, of course, leaves me to face the balance of this short week with long lists and longer days, both conflicts for my get-more–sleep plan. Even though I didn’t plan so much ahead, it was a busy non-stop weekend, full of traditional July 4thevents as well as many new ones. That’s how this third stretch-the-summer strategy crystallized.

Traditions with a Twist

Teacher wisdom comes into play once again as I employed a strategy that teachers use in so many ways—that of co-mingling the familiar (traditions) with the new. This strategy allows teachers to help students build upon their comfort zones, use confidence to stretch, and recognize that these familiar actions were also new at one time. Teachers are really wise that way (and so many other ways for many other blog posts).

By mixing tradition with a twist into new events, we can expand our “familiar.” There is, as I rediscovered this past weekend, both a comfort and an anchor in approaching events like national holidays with at least some tradition. It helps calibrate expectations, a huge downfall for many of us when it comes to holiday events. Flags were proudly out, our local parade took place, and other annual events nestled neatly on our calendars. These familiar events did help to stretch the summer in that expectations were within accurate range, the faces we expected to see were happily present, and the events mostly ran true to anticipated form. Our village’s parade, which rarely tops 15 minutes in length, was consistent in both form and content, making it a welcome and comfortable tradition.

Yet, we also changed it up this year: we observed the parade in our flag hats instead of marching alongside a decorated car. This year, we didn’t spend two hours before the 15-minute parade to put our car through an extensive hair and makeup routine with ribbons and streamers while anchoring a jumbo bear, equally elaborately festooned, atop the car’s roof. This year, we had a new tradition instead—a lazy, delicious brunch with extended family. We chose to do what we wanted to do, not what we felt we must.

Because It IS All About the Kids

Teachers, with such limited time to accomplish so very much, taught me yet again, to choose wisely. Teachers always make their kids their top priority, as did I as different options came into focus. The kids drove the agenda even dividing up so each could opt in or out of some of the festivities. I even carried my “Because it’s all about the kids” cooler bag with me. More than a time or two, seeing that message helped several moms around me to keep their cool in more than the expected ways! A friend carried her “My kids are my primary priority bag.” Both bags turned heads.

Because It's All About the Kids™ Insulated Cooler TotePrimary Priority Flat-Style Tote Bag

 

As we bounced from event to event, I noticed that this long weekend was a lovely mix of the traditional familiar with the crisp and new. Many of these new events are sure to become new traditions going forward. Some “new” events were actually non-events. For this first time in many years, our family actually skipped the fireworks. We didn’t lug chairs and walk to the nearby public beach to not find a spot to sit. Instead, we hunkered down for a cozy movie night instead. When we heard the booming sounds of the fireworks, I glanced at the window wondering for a fleeting second if I felt wistful for those explosions of color. I decided I wasn’t and turned back to the movie. Our youngest elected to bounce outside just before the finale to peek between the treetops, discovering a birds-eye view we’d not noticed we had before. Hmm. Something new from nothing.

Halfway? No Way!

The July 4th weekend seems always to be a marker, creating the illusion that the summer is half over, but in reality, we’ve been out of school for exactly one month only and while many before-back-to-school events do begin to rev up in about a month from now, for many families, school does not officially begin for at least six to seven more weeks. As I often say when I’m savoring something, be it a vacation or a piece of pie, “more to go than have already gone!” Of course, the flip side of this works equally well when the task is less pleasant, “Less to go than have already accomplished.”

So, this third strategy, mixing tradition with a twist (parade attendance but no marching) with the new (weaving in a robust new walking route into the weekend) made for a rich even if speedy holiday break.

 

The integration of these first three strategies, being present, stretching the days by getting more sleep, and mixing traditional with new events have created an intriguing braid of awareness for me. I’m beginning to better recognize that even though the calendar will indeed progress at its own designated speed, what I specifically choose to do with time can significantly influence how quickly it seems to progress. Gee, that sounds like there’s a scientific equation hidden in there somewhere, but it’s really more of a gut thing. It just feels right.

For many teachers, this weekend also marked the end of summer school. For others, summer school won’t wrap up until mid July, leaving one very rare and precious two-week window to relax and savor the summer before in-service activities begin for many teachers. I’d venture to say many teachers are looking forward to this precious sliver of time; hopefully, the present is equally appealing.

There’s a lot to be said for the benefits of being present and rested enough to recognize it. When the little band at our parade played the national anthem, I waved my little flag, and smiled. The true meaning of this celebration, freedom, and choice was definitely not lost on me. I was so grateful to be there—really there. That was a lovely way to savor this summer.

Stay tuned for Strategy 4 and please share your weekend discoveries below. At Teacher Peach, hearing from teachers helps us to continue to hone our work, expand our understanding, and make amazing connections that we treasure.

Six Strategies to Stretch the Summer: Strategy 2—Stretch the DAYS

Six Strategies to Stretch the Summer:  Strategy 2—Stretch the DAYS

In my blog post earlier this week, I mapped out a plan for six strategies to help stretch these rich, July days of summer. The first of these six, outlined in the previous post, was about staying in the present tense, without the tenseness, of course.

It’s only been a few days, and I’m glad to report this short-range planning strategy has been helpful to me so far. I’ve walked each day since Sunday. I didn’t do the no-music-listen-to-the-birds thing; I was correct—that’s way too advanced for me just yet. Besides, I’m not an avid bird lover, so that particular plan might never make it to my stretch list. I did choose my walking music more carefully and I made smarter choices about how and when to focus on work.

I’m continuing to focus on the present, not scheduling things beyond this weekend, and looking forward to a lovely 4th of July. Hmmm. If one is really technically only in the present, is it contraindicated to look forward to something? I suppose so long as I’m not distracted from the present, deciding I’ll wear my flag scarf for the parade is a viable summer stretch strategy all on its own. Sadly, I don’t get a lot of call for that scarf, so taking it out for a spin is an occasion not to be missed.

I’m now ready to integrate the second stretch strategy, that of stretching the days—emphasis on the word days. This one is tougher, at least for me. By both nature and habit, I’m a notorious night owl. I was that tenth-grader who didn’t start her outline until well past eleven on the night before it was due. I was also the lone design student still sanding her wood sculpture well into the same night it was supposed to be lacquered. I clearly should’ve researched the drying time of paint when others were also in the studio to enlighten me. I didn’t, and my wise professor was brilliant enough to let me discover the folly of my ways independently, sticky orange lacquer, and all. Mr. G. was yet another powerful teacher who changed my life, even if not my sleep patterns.

Nighttime has always been my prime time. These days, with such an active company and a busy home life, I tend to deploy some very finely honed nocturnal habits to stretch my days. Long after my family is settled and my team has stopped emailing for the night, I begin to focus on my own work. As a result, I know whodunit in most episodes of Rockford, Kojak, and Columbo. These familiar companions provide background noise in my day-stretching wee hours. Other than feeling somewhat exhausted, I do love late night work time. I get organized, make lists, design, and do research. I’m extremely productive. Ironically, the one thing that I can’t seem to do enough of at night is—get enough sleep.

Trying to stretch the days of summer is like dangling a shiny light in front of a night owl like me. I so like that my family has less structure, that it’s lighter later, and that there’s so much to do outside, from counting steps to lightning bugs. Summer is actually a terrible time for someone like me to stretch the days AND get more sleep. There are so many delightful summer temptations to keep one up at night—in a good way. But, sleep is really important, so I’ve decided to work on this as my second summer stretch strategy. Sleep fits into my stretch plan because being awake even a little less each day might actually help me to be present a little more.

So, I’m turning over a new summer leaf. I’m going to sleep earlier, which, sadly should be easy to do since I’m awake so late typically. I do plan to take baby steps on this one. I’m starting by shifting my time awake, not shortening it. With our new Back-to-School lines launching and holiday planning in full swing, this is no time to work less. I need more time, not less, to attempt to get it all done on schedule.

To stretch my summer days, I will—

  1. Wake up by 6:30 (groan) and switch off the light by 11:30. (OK, midnight. I am a realist.)
  2. Incorporate being more present, thanks to a little more sleep.
  3. Catch a 20-minute walk in the middle of the workday and walk to and from the train.
  4. Complete important communication work early—meetings, approvals, posts, and emails—in 42-minute time blocks.
  5. Most importantly, let the reality of summer “time” stretch my urgency, too.

 

This last one again comes from teachers. We all learned that Rome wasn’t built in a day. It wasn’t built in one summer either. Teachers innately know that progress and change take time and doing one’s best work requires refinement, revision, and rest. Stretching summer means rethinking and recalibrating our own urgencies.

As an example, we’re creating a new executive functioning product. We’d planned to release it today, but discovered important new questions for our supplier. While we’d agreed to release today, it’s the day before the July 4thweekend. That artwork will sit until Tuesday. So we decided to stretch our work time, ensure we get the right answers with less urgency, and release the files first thing Tuesday. We won’t lose time; we’re using it better, working with the cadence of summer “time’s” July 4th schedule.

So, my summer holiday weekend cadence includes sleeping a little sooner, waking a little earlier, and focusing on the present. If any of these ideas stretches you, please comment below. If you have other ideas, are also a night owl, or can enlighten me further, I’m ready to stretch. I’m even looking forward to getting up with the sun. Don’t expect me to swing from a tree as this opening photo suggests though. I will, however, be walking. I’m even hoping these strategies will leave a great mark on my habits, making this one collection of stretch marks I’m actually looking forward to.

Stay tuned for Strategy 3 early next week. Enjoy the long weekend—or better yet, have “Sweet Holiday Dreams.”